A secret I wish someone had told me sooner: five poems by Shira Erlichman


A man who forgets himself is poor at making bread.
That is a cookie fortune I never got.

Three virgins in the sack are like three happy vowels: aoe!
That is also a cookie fortune I never got.

The mountains have really big hands.
Once more folks, a cookie fortune I never got.

Don’t turn around – there are babies being made.
That is, again, a cookie fortune I never got.

The bubble bath was filled with lemons when I kissed her.
A secret, just nobody’s secret.

The extra pillow is to hump.
Somebody’s secret, someone close by, maybe right here.

I lick every scented marker in the set.
Gregory “Long-legs”s not-so-secret in fourth grade.

Every bad thing that ever happens to you
is either a thermometer or barometer.
A secret I wish someone had told me sooner.

I am not brave.
The heart’s secret.

I am too brave.
The heart’s secret.

A dishwasher that plays the dishes as notes.
Uninvented Invention #23

A holidiary where everyone shares entries
in a highly ritualized public format.
Uninvented Invention #68

“Burn the water” – a blues song revealing
the impossibility of abandoning those that abandon us.
Uninvented Invention #104

A miniature movie-theater suspended above the forehead
during sleep to, of course, project movies to a loved one.
Uninvented Invention #19

Walking campfire: built small and safe enough to store
in the breast pocket and familiar to all, so all may sing along.
Uninvented Invention #859

Onion-vision, so we may see sadness as it is, artichokes
as they are, sound, muscle, the truth as it is.
Uninvented Invention #44

Word-kites: you tie them to what you say
and they go wherever they want to go,
like, a tree-tangle or your mouth, some hot moon like that.
Uninvented Invention #960

The Unfinished Suicides of My High School Sweetheart

For Jake

We were platonic high school sweethearts that fucked in the front seat
without touching and with our eyes open the whole time.
Our questions locked at the genitals like children to bicycles.
Our distant tongues sparked like forks dreaming of sockets.
We were virgin high school sweethearts that fucked with the seatbelts on
and the headlights blazing, daring passing drivers to stop and peek,
challenging cops to pull over beside us and question how safe our conversation was.

We theorized about masturbation, weed, (and the combination), football players,
our parents, Bone Thugs’ rapping techniques,
and what percentage of wrong was it to think of someone else while getting head.

We could achieve orgiastic ecstasy on a pile of purple sweatpants.
Our bodies fit together without being in one another.
We were music.
We were honest.
And that is something World Leaders are too scared to touch.
And we got angry. We got scared.
And we weren’t enough for each other.
And we were lovers.

It’s true: you were a man and I was a woman and the birds didn’t care,
and the bees stung the both of us,
but the level of intimacy made slobbering couples at school seem like
they had the attention spans of goldfish.
We were Red Rock meets blue sky of Arizona boldness,
depth of mountains the color of dried blood.

You told me you wanted to die.
Parked outside my parents’ house, asked what kept me living.
I told you my brother’s name but you only had sisters.

You said it would be easy.
One acquaintance away from getting a gun.
Knew someone who knew someone.
You were inches from releasing your feet from under the rope around your neck
and I was there, and I wasn’t.
You were scattered to red needles across the sheet of your chest
and you were only a decision away from a vertical slice
that opened the drawers of blood inside you until you were empty.

How could I tell you: you never wear sunglasses and I like that about you.
You look like a muppet and that alone still makes me smile.
You are curious yet patient.
You never make me feel ugly, gendered or crazy and that is huge.
This is friendship I keep in a drawer I will never unhinge
and spill out.

I felt you tremor from across the cup-holder
as a closed door on the left side of your chest rattled,
which must have been frightening
because the days were all empty rooms you waited in,
and the women were laughter that lived outside your walls,
and the men were impossible to be.

Jake, you look at me like I belong only in my skin,
and you ask questions, which is the biggest compliment anyone can receive.

So in the car we’re constantly in, outside our parents’ houses,
I swallow your keys to prove my commitment to finding a new way,
another road, a life you can live with.

I’m Not Falling

When I said the scariest thing I could think of sharing.
When you asked me to. When I couldn’t solve your
blood. When I sat by your bed while the nurses fed you

neon water. When we made love when we got home.
When I started weeping in the midst of it because
I now understood you as the silence. When I listened

well and carefully. When you told me so. When we endured
the moment. When I bought a bagel with runny vegetable
cream cheese for less than three dollars while you talked

in your sleep. When we mended. When I wished for everything,
twice. When brilliant. When this is not a sad song I am alive in.
When it is a horribly bright place. When you deserved the best

but instead got a ruptured cyst, barely made rent and your
father disappointed you. When I had no idea what to say
and you knew so you covered my mouth. When the bed

was the whole day. When my mother fell in love with you.
When the fire didn’t bury us. When I brought you your lunch.
When you paid for the cab. When you nodded, took off

your shoes and stayed. When you made the bathwater
laugh. When you whispered into my ear, bit my collarbone
and won. When everything weighed love, too love to be

put down. When I sat by your bed while nurse after nurse missed
and missed and missed your veins. When the Doctor came in
to solve the struggle, said “the others are too nice” and jabbed

it in, bull’s eye. When remember how I wanted to kill
and thank her? When me neither love. When it never rained.
When life weighed everything, too everything to pick up.

When that man in the brown cap never looked at us disgusted,
shaking his head, while we arm-in-armed by. When I paid for
the cab and forgot what you owed me because I was counting

your curls. When, especially, you fell asleep
without finishing your sentence:
I’m not falling.

Feeding You Grapes On The Mountain’s Soft Side

I want to write you a good poem: the water is cold and you step in.
The water is loud against your shins.

I want to write you a comfort poem: oh the ship is a dip! The banana
is a smile, dial! the little girl being carriaged sings, passing you.

I want to write you an awe poem: breath is a leaf floating in a mostly cream
coffee and you have such soft patience to pluck it out in a forest always falling.

I want to write you a silent poem: if every moment is the same moment, what
are you missing? If you want an apple, bite my mouth across such time.

I want to write you a bowl poem: noodles.

I want to write you a kite poem: blue.

I want to write you an always poem: the water is cold and you step in.
The water is loud against your shins.

I want to write you a good morning poem: the crickets believe
you too tell the temperature just by how you let sing the spaces.

I want to write you a together poem: the water is cold and?
The water is loud against?

I want to write you a love poem: you are cold and you step in
to yourself, loud against God’s shins. God is dancing.
So cold! Ice cold! somebody says. But who?

I want to write you a whole poem: a bridge abandoned while it rains.

I want to write you a fart poem: somebody, but who?

I want to write you a cosmic poem: the ant on my kitchen table.

I want to write you a wake up poem: all you have been running toward
has been running toward you, all along.

I want to write you a disappointing poem: this is all.

I want to write you an exciting poem: this is all.

I want to write you a real poem: listening to the birds, I give up,
close the book on want, know this, I will come to you
when I am ready.

Ode to Lithium #188

I have to be honest with you: There were others.
& Some of them were good. Before you gilded my hippocampus
I lay in bed with fireworks: anti-psychotics, their distant cousins,
Risperadol, Abilify, all the dizziest bees.

When the SSRIs asked me to dance, I danced, heavier than I’ve ever been,
a weeping clockwork, but at least in motion.
Some even pinched a smile from me. I know you want to know:
Were they better Did I love them Would I ever go back Who is she.

But if you could see what they gave me: Years.
From the bottom of the lake they scraped my literacy for breathing.
Or: my mother & I, side by side on a king size bed, reading
while they ambled & flit through my thick helplessness.

I read books. I cooked meals. Forgive me.

A secret I wish someone had told me sooner: five poems by Shira Erlichman

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